New Delhi: In a bid to curb fake news in India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting amended guidelines for accreditation of journalists. Shortly after the decision, Congress leader Ahmed Patel put forth a series of questions regarding its implications for honest journalists, leading to a prompt rebuttal from Union Minister Smriti Irani.
Under the new rules, journalists stand to lose accreditation if found guilty of generating or propagating fake news. Complaints made will also get accreditation of 'accused' journalists suspended till the determination regarding fake news is made by regulating agencies. It is this point that has primarily been questioned by Ahmed Patel who said motivated complaints may be filed. "I appreciate the attempt to control fake news but few questions for my understanding: 1. What is guarantee that these rules will not be misused to harass honest reporters? 2.Who is going to decide what constitutes fake news? 3. Is it not possible that motivated complaints will be filed to suspend accreditation until enquiry is on? 4.What is guarantee that these guidelines will check fake news or is it an attempt to prevent genuine reporters from reporting news uncomfortable to the establishment? ," asked Patel.
The answer came swiftly.
Irani was quick on her social media button and assured that the Centre has no role to play in the matter. "Glad to see you awake @ahmedpatel ji whether a News article / broadcast is fake or not will be determined by PCI & NBA; both of whom I’m sure you know are not controlled/ operated by GOI," she tweeted in her reply.
The official statement from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting also outlines that it is the Press Council of India and News Broadcasters Association which will determine if news is fake or not. "Noticing the increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media, the Government has amended the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists. Now on receiving any complaints of such instances of fake news, the same would get referred to the Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media and to News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it relates to electronic media, for determination of the news item being fake or not."